All-Star Spotlight: Coping with concussions

Every Tuesday and Thursday in “All-Star Spotlight,” members of the ESPNHS All-Star team tackle a hot topic in high school sports. Today, Caroline Metcalf-Vera, a sophomore track and field and soccer player at Dedham (Mass.), describes the difficulty of her down time while recovering from two concussions.

READ MORE: Are girls at greater risk for concussions? | Anatomy of a concussion

It’s the fall of 2011. You know what’s in? Tribal prints, vintage 70s, colorblock dresses and concussions.

At least that’s what I found out on my visit to Children’s Hospital Boston sifting through piles of medical magazines along with the occasional Vogue thrown in there.

It used to be two weeks max you were out for a concussion, right? Well not anymore. It has been three months since I received my first one.

I’m a soccer goalie, so I am no stranger to collisions. But in a co-ed scrimmage in late July, I took a pretty bad hit. After spending a significant amount of time in the ER, I was told that I have to pass a slew of tests before returning to the field. I was devastated, but I knew I would be back before the start of the season.

Well, the start of the season came and went. I had made varsity, failed the concussion test three times, and was still sitting on the bench by the end of September. I thought that by making varsity I would immediately feel the bond that everybody talks about. Now to an extent I did. But, I wasn’t playing or practicing, so I wasn’t really part of the team. I was the one shagging balls, keeping stats and warming up the starting goalie.

It was inevitable, I know. And I wasn’t upset about doing it until my teammates would say; “Caroline, why aren’t YOU doing this” as they were chasing their own ball. So yeah, I’d say it started to get under my skin.

I started feeling bad for myself. And that was when I knew I had a choice:

A. I could sulk for the rest of the season, overanalyze the team’s every word, and play victim.

B. Get past my own insecurities about whether I really deserved to be on this team, stop overthinking every situation and act like the member of the team I was.

Of course, the easiest choice was to play victim, but I knew that I was in a sense “making a mountain out of a mole hill.” Turns out, I was right; the only issue was my insecurities. I was just as much a part of the team as our leading scorer or our best defenseman. Now, I didn’t have as an important “job,” but my contribution mattered just as much.

Whether you’re a freshman who rides the bench the entire season, or you’re a captain who tore your ACL, or someone like me who suffers a concussion, you have those two options. It’s easy to feel bad for yourself, but you can also prove that you won’t let your injury hold you back.

Now three months out, and I just suffered a second concussion. I am currently not even allowed to participate in a full day of school. I’ve learned the hard way that your brain is important, and the consequences of getting back out on the field before you are fully healed are not worth it.

It’s frustrating, but there are bigger things at stake than playing in the next game, like your long-term health.